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Over-simplified game request

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releppes
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Joined: 09/17/2010

Game design is somewhat of a muse for me at the moment. I thought I'd ask others how they get started.

My motivation is simple: I'd like to make something free (ie: rules) and generic enough that supplies can be had easily.

[DICE COMBAT]
This muse started with me and my wife making up a simple dice combat game. Each player starts with one die and 5 health points. On your turn you can choose to go for points or attack another player. When attacking, you get 1 point for a [3,4,5] and 2 points for a [6]. When defending, you get 1 point for a [1,2].

There's a trade off on whether to attack or just go for points. When going for points, you stand more chance of a better score and there's no risk to health. If attacking, the score could be less depending on the defender's roll. And there's a small chance one could loose health if the defender has a better roll.

During the game, a player can level up. Another die can be purchased for 6 points for a maximum of 3 dice (ie: highest level = 3).

An example of combat: A level 3 attacker (3 dice) attacks a level 2 defender (2 dice)

The attacker rolls a [2,3,6]. They have a score of 3 points for that roll. If they were attacking an opponent, the defender would roll their dice. The defender was a level 2, so they roll 2 dice and get [1,5]. The defender has a defense score of 1 for their roll. The total score for the attacker would be their score minus the defender score (ie: 3 - 1 = 2). The attacker would get 2 points added to their total. The defender looses that amount in health.

If a player's health goes to zero, they loose all their score. They start at zero with a fresh health of 5 points. They do, however, get to retain any dice previously purchased. So if a level 2 player was to die, they get to start over as a level 2.

First player with a total score of 30 points wins.

This was a moderately amusing game to play. It was more fun making the game up as we went along. We thought we were witty with the concept of leveling up a character by purchasing more dice. Then I discovered Heroscape and realized all we did was reinvent the dice combat used in Heroscape.

I really liked the simplicity of Heroscape. I've always wanted to get into a D&D like game, but I didn't care for the long and drawn out rules that went along with it. I also have the same interest in wargaming along with the same aversion to complicated rules. I started thinking about how I would make my own Heroscape like game. The fun seems to be in making the game itself.

So I ask, how do board game designers get into making board games? Do you start with a grab bag of generic supplies (ie: dice, chips, map, ...)?

releppes
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Joined: 09/17/2010
Follow-up... One of the ideas

Follow-up...

One of the ideas I had for a Heroscape like game was to mimic D&D. Instead of having a Dungeon Master, I was thinking of monsters with their own AI. In the spirit of Heroscape, I wanted something ridiculously simple. The monsters, like players, would take a turn. Each monster would have simple stats describing their logic.

As an example: If a player came within a specified range, the monster would roll for initiative. Would it move to attack or ignore the player. The closer a player got might increase the chance a monster would attack. Similarly, in battle a monster's turn would start by rolling for initiative on whether it should flee or fight. The monster's health would affect the probability of fleeing.

The thought was to create a mildly amusing D&D like game that could be played solo yet simple enough a 6 year old could understand. Simple rules and simple combat yet not so deterministic that luck governs the game.

If this sounds all to familiar, please respond with references to other games or material so I don't go reinventing the wheel.

releppes
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Joined: 09/17/2010
Dice combat follow-up... I

Dice combat follow-up...

I should point out that the dice combat game my wife and I made up didn't get play tested well. It was more the fun in making the game and seeing what worked and what didn't. We toyed with ideas like buying defense dice separately from attack dice as well as a means to buy health during the game (2 points for 1 health). The game itself was more of an amusement.

The game was purposely biased towards the attacker. Hence the greater chance to score. I wanted a player to stand a good chance of accomplishing something by the end of a turn. In the end, the game is mostly luck.

CloudBuster
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Joined: 04/14/2009
Be careful with "AI" in board games.

Hi Releppes,

Your post intrigued me because I went through a very similar process with my daughter. We were bored one night and I remembered I made a board game many years before she was born. I dusted it off and read the rules and almost fell asleep because I remembered why I never played it again.

I hated it.

You're right...the fun of that game was creating it. When it came down to actually playing it, I found that what seemed good on paper, just didn't work well when actually playing. (more on that in a sec)

So...we took the pieces and started making a different game. We did exactly like what you and your wife did... We started messing with the pieces and adding rules as we went along. It has since developed into a space game we're calling "Territorial Space" and I've been having a lot of fun creating a game board, cards, rules, etc. I have no intention of trying to sell this game...I just want to make a fun, playable game for my family.

So getting back to my original game...each player had a base. The object was to bring back two "objects of power" (I can't remember the lame name I gave 'em). These were scattered across the board (the game world). There were 4 real ones and 4 fake ones. You never knew which one you got until you got to it's space and looked at it. Nobody else knew if you had a real one or a fake one, so on your way back to your base, you'd be attacked or enemy players would play cards to mess you up somehow. I still don't hate the concept...I just hated the way I implemented it.

Well...I also thought it would be cool to have an AI controlled "extra player". He had a turn just like everybody else and dice rolls would determine what he was going to do (move, attack, play a card, etc.). I found that maintaining his turns became a terrible pain and about a third of the way into the first playtest I asked my friends if we could just eliminate him. They didn't agree. They could see how much I hated him and they decided it was much more entertaining to watch me moan and complain about it. The game dragged on and on and that was probably the main reason I never touched it again. My friends still bring it up now and again. The jerks. :)

-CB-

rcjames14
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Joined: 09/17/2010
Advice?

Did you want feedback on your design or designing in general?

If it is the latter, CCGs were a gateway drug into game design for me. Since you design your decks in a CCG, it was not too far of a step to begin to think about designing the entire game. But, my final leap into game design came when I realized that modifications had unintended consequences on the game which could only be dealt with by further modifications. Once you've replaced the whole bike with new parts, is it the same bike? Now, I pursue my curiosity wherever it leads me and rely upon the depth of my experience, previous thought and exploration into themes, structure and mechanics to connect the three from time to time. So, it's not really one before the other two, but all three together at once.

If it is the former: it's not a dice game, but your game reminds me of Bohnanza.

releppes
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Joined: 09/17/2010
Thanks for the

Thanks for the replies!

CloudBuster, that was a great back story. Your game does sound interesting. Like space trading with an element of bluff. I had similar thoughts about AI players. The hassle of having to manage them. It only came up when I was thinking of how one play a simple D&D game solo. I agree, it's boring to play your character as well as the AI. Sorta like playing chess against yourself (my brother use to do that). I might toy with the idea at a later time, but you did bring up an important point. Thanks.

rcjames14, I know what you mean about making minor tweaks to a game only to find profound impact in the overall game play. That dice game I described (I call it 'die' just to be lame), was just a muse at first. After we played it once or twice, we found it wasn't very fun. Certain robotic strategies fell into place. My wife would say, "why should I ever go for points when all I need to do is attack you?" So I made up a spread sheet of probabilities to see how the point values for dice affected the game. That alone was pretty interesting, but just yesterday I took it to a new level.

For fun, I programed a simulation of the game. I'd run the simulation about a 1000 times to get a general average on statistics. The game being so simple, it only takes a second or two to run 1000 iterations. It was interesting stuff.

I only had two players in the simulation. At first each player only had one die and raced for the score of 30. The game would take an average of ~33 turns with each player having an average score of ~27. Not a big surprise, but the player going first had a slightly better chance of winning the game.

I then went through scenarios where one player would level up to 2 dice and the other would stay at 1 die. Major point spread for the level 2 player. The level 1 player would only win around 5% of the time. I fiddled more with other strategies. I made changes to the cost of buying dice. I also tried different point vales for dice rolls. Major impact on game play.

Changing game mechanics was fun and interesting, but things got more interesting when I started giving different strategies to each player. I'd have playerA only go for score and playerB always attack if they were loosing. No surprise, the aggressive player would win.

It's been a nice mini project taking this game and turning it into a simulation. Although I still consider the game a failure, I did learn where some of the weaknesses are. Aside from the game, it's been fun tweaking the simulation to see profound effects. Some obvious, some not so obvious.

CloudBuster
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Joined: 04/14/2009
Interesting!

You programmed a simulation in just a couple days?

Pretty cool! Must be a very handy skill to have (programming quickly, I mean). Part of my amazement is due to the fact that I've programmed a couple very simple games (one on a VIC 20 when I was in high school...it used something called VIC Basic). I also programmed a Space Invaders type game, except it used my boss' head as the invaders. It got lots of laughs at work. Anyway, those games took me weeks and weeks to complete. The Space Invaders clone wasn't really even programmed. I used an application called Game Maker, which doesn't require any programming knowledge. You just drag and drop various icons to make them do what you want them to do. So...I'm impressed!

Very interesting results you have there. What a wonderful learning experience!

-CB-

releppes
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Joined: 09/17/2010
The programming wasn't

The programming wasn't impressive. It's just a Perl script that loops over two players. All the players do is roll dice and take score. The strategic logic is nothing more than if opponent's score is greater, then attack otherwise roll for score. The stats were nothing more than tracking a running average. It was a great exercise.

What's fascinating me is not the complexity, but rather the simplicity of some game designs. How simple things could have profound effects. I like games that can be described on one sheet of paper.

Some of my game designs range from shooting marbles to playing domino solitary. The funny thing about game design is that no matter what you make, it's probably been done before. I'm OK with that. It's the fun of creating that's all worth while.

Speaking of reinventing the wheel, one of the games my brother and I created back when we were about 8yr old was call "Kick and Run". The rules were simple. Pitch the ball, the opponent kicks it, then the opponent runs between bases as many times as they can before getting hit with the ball. Pretty familiar game eh? The funny thing is we made it up without knowledge of any other sport.

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